Kiss and Make Up

by Anne N. Mouse

Caution: This Science Fiction Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Ma/ft, gi, Mult, Consensual, NonConsensual, Rape, BiSexual, TransGender, Shemale, Science Fiction, Space, DomSub, MaleDom, FemaleDom, Spanking, Rough, Harem, Interracial, Body Modification, Teacher/Student, Workplace, School, Nudism, Military, .

Desc: Science Fiction Story: Outpost series # 7. The saga of Heinlein Station continues with Frances' as the narrator. Some things get dark as Frances recalls her youth and others reveal past pain.

I woke up slowly and carefully untangled myself from the arms of my fellow concubines. I saw Brandy smile at me and tried to apologize to her. She continued to smile at me and said, "Frances I needed to be spanked. I'm truly beginning to understand what James meant about the hazards of being a sponsor. Even though I started out as a concubine I still find it easy to forget that you're people too."

I kissed Brandy softly and said, "I don't care what you think you needed. I don't feel good about having hit you so hard."

"SHHHH!" Brandy told me, "I may not have wanted you to spank me quite so hard but done is done. I'm not damaged, though I do want to know what set you off?"

"Serena was sitting on James lap trying to get him to fuck her and I had to paddle you."

"What about your story, was that setting you off at all?"

"Maybe."

"More than maybe, do you want to review your vital statistics for the half hour before I disrupted you?"

"No!"

"You're not even a little curious?" James asked sleepily.

"NO!"

"I want you to read your story and start work on the rest of it. What you told must have been at least ten years before I chose you to be my concubine."

"I really just want to have the AI shred it and never see it again," I told James quietly.

"AI, under no circumstances will you shred any of the personal histories that you're going to record for us all. They may be sealed, in fact I order them sealed unless they become evidence in a crime," James ordered the AI. I cringed. I was still feeling pretty much like I'd been hit pretty hard though I didn't have bruises to show for it by the little excursion I'd taken down memory lane.

I left the room then. I didn't know what to say to James. It was clear to me that he would insist on me continuing to write my personal history. I was sure that, while he loved me and showed me his love in every way he could, he would accept no demurral on my part. Before I got to the room where the replicator was so that I could start on breakfast, Serena came up and started rubbing my back. "You look sad, Frances," she said, "what's wrong?"

"James isn't going to let me stop telling my story. He may not believe it, but I feel like I'm going to die when I think about some of the things that happened to me."

"Not to make light of your pain Frances, 'cause I know it was long term, but I was raped when I was ten," Serena told me as she continued to work on my shoulders.

I felt Serena's hands trembling as she tried to continue to massage my back. I turned to see her eyes flooded with tears. "Why would you tell me something like that?" I asked.

"Because when I can talk about it or think about it without pain or terror, then the man who stole my innocence from me will no longer have power over me."

"Is that possible?"I asked.

"I don't know," Serena said as she snuggled against my body.

James came out and found us there. He said, "Frances, do you understand why both you and Brandy had to be punished?"

"So that we can avoid what we found when we came here?" I said with a shudder. The review of what Cpl Winter had done to his concubines was horrific. James had determined with everyone's agreement that the man was too insane to use in any fashion among the crew of Heinlein Station. But he also said the cause of the man's insanity had been that he was given no limits in what he could do to his concubines. They had suffered a long and painful death. We made arrangements over the objection of the AI to collect sperm from Cpl Winter and then James had executed the man. James had been adamant though, if we could not expect more people or a rotation away from Heinlein Station then every scrap of genetic diversity we could muster had to be accessed.

"Yes, everyone must obey the rules. Maybe especially those of us who have been accorded power over other people by the Confederacy." James said.

"It still bothers me to spank Brandy," I said as I leaned against James.

"Punishment is supposed to bother everyone," James said.

"What about Serena?" I asked, "She looked more like she was trying to be entertained."

"Serena has a new accessory that she is going to be wearing for a while. Didn't you notice it?" James asked.

"No?"

"Serena, come here dear," James called.

"Do I have to?" Serena called from the bathroom.

"It's not like everyone won't see you while you go about your job today," James said.

A few moments later Serena came into the dining area with us. It took me a second or two to realize that something was wrong with how she looked. She had been fitted with something that hid her pussy and shielded her breasts. "What is that?" I asked, as I went up to her to give her a hug. The covers were like hard plastic.

"Chastity belts. I'm not allowed to have an orgasm for a week."

"Why?"

"Because I wasn't supposed to go as far as I went last night."

"So, part of what you did was James' plan?" I asked giving James a glare. Serena nodded.

"You were supposed to sit on my lap and tell Frances to be sure to spank Brandy hard enough for her to feel it. Instead you acted like a punishment session was a session where the object was sexual pleasure," James explained.

"I don't like watching people get spanked and I definitely don't like getting spanked," Serena said. "I was trying to understand what could make either situation sexy."

"Being twisted," I said without thinking.

"Not necessarily twisted, but something in your sexual make up was formed in a way that is different than normal," James said. "That is one reason I want you to continue to fill in the outline you started with. Understanding how you were hurt will help us know how to heal your wounds."

"Do I have to?" popped out of my mouth before I could think to stop my reaction to James' order.

"Yes, because if you can learn to be comfortable with yourself, you will then be able to take over as the station Civil Service Officer."

I tried to back away from James. I wanted to run. I knew I couldn't hide anywhere in Heinlein Station that the AI couldn't find me. When I ran into Sgt Staunton, I knew that I was doomed. I wanted to faint. "I can't do that. I don't want to leave your house. And there aren't enough concubines on board. There are only 5 men ... and only one is a concubine. And you have him!" I said in a panic. I turned to face Sgt Staunton.

"Those are all excuses," James told me gently. "You don't have to leave my house and Private Howard's senior concubine has a son who will be turning 14 in ten months. It would be a good idea if he were not in the same house as his mother."

"I just can't do that! I can't tell anyone what to do!" I started to weep as James wrapped me in his arms.

"AI, what is your analysis of the situation? Both Sergeant Staunton and I believe that Frances is acting as the defacto Civil Service Officer. Are we correct?" James asked.

"Frances certainly helps facilitate harmony aboard Heinlein Station," the AI said. "Her scores are well within the range of a sponsor except for aggressiveness. It is my belief that if Frances were to retake the CAP test, she might well achieve the score of a sponsor."

I wished I could guess where the cameras that the AI used were. I wanted to glare at it. Instead I said, "I will never willingly take the CAP test again. I want to stay right where I am."

"Even if I put you in charge of punishment in our household?" James asked.

"That's better than having to hold a trial like you did for Corporal Winter," I said shivering.

"Still I want you not to be having nightmares," James said.

"I don't have nightmares," I said.

"Even not considering the watch schedule, your sleep is disturbed at least three times a week by emotional turmoil," the AI said.

I growled. I really wished that I could find the core to that cybernetic monster and heat it 'til it no longer worked. I had told James that I didn't want to be a sponsor. I hated that we were always watched, and I hated that we were so few. "Does that thing make up problems for me?" I asked.

"No," the AI said. It almost managed to sound affronted.

"Will you restrict your watching in private spaces?" I asked, glaring at a wall.

"Unless a crime is being committed, recordings of private spaces, defined to be, bedrooms, bathrooms and children's play areas, will be sealed," the AI said, grudgingly.

"I guess that means I have to work some more on writing about things that make me uncomfortable," I told James as I wriggled to get free from the clinch he and Sgt Staunton had me in. They let me go reluctantly. In order to get my thoughts together, I ordered myself a small breakfast from the replicator. "What would you like to eat?" I asked them.

"We can order for ourselves," James said.

"I'd tell you to go eat elsewhere but I don't expect that you'll listen to me anymore than you do about me not wanting to write about my childhood," I said as a sat and watched James and Sgt Staunton as they ordered up a breakfast.

"Why don't you take a few minutes, or even the rest of today until your shift to go visit the barnyard?" James asked. One thing that we had discovered when we arrived at Heinlein Station was that one pod aboard the ship had been equipped to transport livestock in a sort of biostasis. So we had a few goats, sheep, cows and chickens that would hopefully be providing eggs to us soon. There were also cats which were much petted although we did try to keep them where their jobs were. It seemed that somewhere in the other goods we brought along there were at least one pair of mice. The station AI was not happy with their presence, but what else could you expect? To get rid of them (maybe) James had suggested that everything and everyone that we wanted to keep alive should be put into biostasis while the temperature of the station was allowed to slowly drop to the background temperature of the space around it. That would hopefully eliminate the vermin. Exposing the spaces we suspected of being infested with mice to vacuum had been suggested too. The station AI didn't seem amused by either solution to the mouse problem.

I wondered how long it would take the AI to reach the conclusion that mice were almost an inevitable part of having humans aboard the station. I ate and took James' advice. Holding a cat, and petting it if it permitted me that privilege, would serve to calm my nerves. And that, I had to admit, was something that I needed very badly.

There was an air lock between the barnyard and the residential section of Heinlein Station for the simple reason that no one would have been very happy to have to live in a barn with the animals. The odors they created were obnoxious at best. As I stepped out of the door of our house that only remotely resembled a shipping container I noticed that the area had begun to green up a bit where there wasn't water. We had brought grass seed at least, although there was supposed to be an area that would be planted with wheat and other food plants. The inside of the station was looking more and more like parkland and less and less like some sort of industrial nightmare.

I took a breath of air and decided that the AI was slowly learning not to make it smell odd in some way or maybe the space was so large that it couldn't renew it often enough for it to retain the metallic mechanical tinge it had when we first arrived. There was a slow flowing river about 25 meters from me. James said, and my studies as the med tech for the whole community (who would have thought?) agreed that the algae that we'd planted there was helping to make the air more smell natural. I shivered a bit at the thought of my specialty. Eventually that would be my full time job. There were babies on the way. Arlene was pregnant, Private Howard had a pregnant concubine and Helga, Sgt Staunton's concubine, would deliver soon too. Supposedly, I would be getting one of the spare concubines James had brought along as an apprentice on my watches. Someone (though I didn't know who yet) was supposed to receive training on the med tubes too so that I wasn't the only operator available.

I wandered along, not thinking much until I got to the falling water that defined the beginning of our river. I saw Randi there and had to suppress a shiver as he bounced up to me. He was as cheerful as anyone could be though he seemed to set off some bad feelings for most of us. Evidently none of us were very good at hiding our discomfort at his presence because he asked me, "Frances, do you think everyone is uncomfortable around me?"

I wanted to tell him if he felt that, it was probably true. But I didn't want to make him feel bad. After all the way he looked was even less his fault than the weight I had carried in my youth was my fault. "I don't think it is you who makes them uncomfortable so much as that no one knows what to think about what Sergeant Staunton has done to you. They see you being happy but don't know whether to believe that, or to think that you are simply acting when you look happy."

"I'm happy." Randi nearly sang.

"Why are you happy?" I asked.

"Because I don't have to worry about anything except pleasing my mistress," Randi said, giving me a hug.

"What did you hug me for?" I asked.

"'Cause hugging people feels good and you looked like you needed someone to hug you," Randi told me.

"I guess being hugged feels good to me too," I admitted, "if the right person is hugging me."

"And you'd rather have James hugging you, than me," Randi said as he let go of me.

"I would, not that I'm rejecting your hugs, I just prefer James' hugs."

"That's okay, most of the time I much prefer Margret's hugs. But sometimes it just seems right to hug someone who looks blue."

"I don't mind your hugs," I told the effeminate looking man. "I just wish that I didn't have to obey my master in what he has asked me to do today."

"Why don't you want to obey your master?" Randi asked.

"Because what he wants me to do brings up bad memories," I said then went on before he could ask anything else and asked, "Are you trying to be the Civil Service Officer for our station?"

Randi wriggled away from me while shaking his head. He looked so much like I had earlier that I ended up giggling, which felt good. "What are you laughing about?" Randi asked, looking hurt.

"Us. You and I. James told me I'd make a good Civil Service Officer today and I wanted to find some place to hide for about half a thousand years. I asked you if you were trying to be the Civil Service Officer and you act like you want to run and hide too."

"Wouldn't that mean I'd have to move out of Margaret's house? I'd have to be a sponsor, right?" Randi asked.

"As I understand it, sponsors choose how they live so long as it doesn't interfere with them doing their duties," I said.

"I'd still be afraid that I'd go back to how I was before Margaret remodeled me," Randi said.

"Were you that bad?" I asked.

Randi nodded urgently and rushed to change the subject back to me. "What does James want you to do that's making you feel bad?" he asked.

"He wants me to write my story. He says that we should all do that so that we can remember where we came from. But it is really stirring some memories that I'd rather not deal with," I said.

"I can understand that," Randi said, looking pensive. "I've started telling my story and I'm finding that I was a right nasty bastard."

"Do you suppose everyone has things they would rather not revisit?" I asked.

"They do," Randi said shortly. I nodded in agreement. I knew that the others who were with me on Heinlein Station would be having much emotional turmoil over their own stories. Somehow that made telling mine just a bit easier. As if he'd heard my thoughts, Randi said, "Would you mind letting me read or hear what you've told of your story?" he asked.

"I was headed to visit the cats, I think there is a table in the barnyard that will work as a display surface," I said.

"I wish I could take a cat home," Randi told me as he followed me through the airlock into the barnyard.

"The station AI wouldn't like that," I said, "but soon enough there will be a lot of cats here. I know that at least one female is pregnant."

Randi didn't say anything to that. Instead he sat at a table and asked again to see my story. I sat and gave the AI permission to display what I'd told it. Soon after I sat, a couple of cats came up and demanded attention so I concentrated on petting one of them and scratching its ears. The rumble of it purring soothed me as I worried about what Randi would think of what I'd written.

I lost myself in the sensation of petting the cat. I knew that the AI would warn me in time to get back to the control room for my watch. The only thing that could disturb this time that James had given me was that someone would manage to get injured and need time in the med tube.

I sat quietly, trying not to think since if I started thinking my thoughts would seem like they were rushing about in a dizzying maelstrom. According to the clock that the AI displayed it was more than half an hour later when Randi spoke to me again. "You poor dear," he said, "did everyone in your life either hate you or use you?"

I wondered for a moment how Randi could sound so much like a woman. Like he understood what I'd dealt with as a girl. Some of that must have shown on my face because he asked, "Frances, are you happy being James' concubine?"

"Yes." I told him, puzzled by the question.

"Could James change the way you look?"

"Yes, he did, but not much," I answered.

"So do you accept that he wants you to look the way you do?"

"Not really ... I'd hoped he would let me look beautiful," I said.

"I didn't think you had accepted that James wants you to look the way you do because, to him, you are beautiful the way you look." Randi said, "It took me a lot longer I bet to accept that this," Randi indicated his body, "was the way Margaret wanted me to look. And even then, longer to accept that what my mistress wanted for me was the thing that could make me happy.

"Consider this, has James ever denied you an orgasm?"

"No, but he did put a chastity outfit on Serena ... Not that it will keep her from orgasming, I think she's the only woman I know who can orgasm from giving head."

"Feeling good isn't something that should be denied," Randi said. "What's James punishing Serena for?"

"Why do you think James is punishing Serena?" I asked.

"'Cause you just said he'd never denied you an orgasm,"Randi told me. Then he seemed to get lost for a moment as if reminiscing. "When Margaret first sponsored me she was so angry with me that she denied me an orgasm except at her command. She was right in some ways because that taught me the meaning of being a concubine. But it's awfully hard to deal with losing your ability to get what you want..."

"What do you want that is being denied you? I asked.

"Everything that Margaret has given me works," Randi cupped the small but definite breasts that lifted the front of his shift, "I'll be able to feed Helga's baby. But sometimes in the depth of my being, when I lay my hand against her stomach and feel the baby move, I want to feel that too, a life quickening inside of me."

Obeying some impulse I didn't understand, I reached out and drew Randi's slight body to me, "Honey," I said, "that's not up to Margaret. The Confederacy has a moral objection to doing something like that to you."

"Really?" Randi looked at me to see if I was telling the truth. It occurred to me that I was holding a distraught girl not a young man or boy, as I nodded solemnly. "Then how do I convince the AI of the station to change its moral objection?"

"I don't know..." I said slowly trying to figure out just exactly how Randi had picked me out as a friend. I was also trying to understand how Randi had become one of the girls or women instead of a strange half creature.

Evidently that was on Randi's mind as well. "Then how come it let Margaret do this to me?" Randi pulled off the shift that covered the remodeled body that Margaret had created. To be honest, if there was a penis or testicles there I could not detect them. Randi looked like a girl who chose to shave her pussy like Brandy and Serena did.

"Where's your penis?" I asked somewhat in awe of how much Randi resembled the youngest of my sister concubines.

"Oh it's there and works quite well, after all Helga wouldn't be pregnant if I was entirely as I look," Randi said." But I'm tired of being half way between and, to be honest, I don't want to go back to being a guy. I don't think that if James ordered Margaret to remodel me to the size and physique of Lenny that it wouldn't do anything except probably make sure I ended up in the stew pot as it were."

I gasped and said, "You don't think we would want to do that, do you?"

"No, but if I went back to being an asshole I would deserve to be executed. We can't afford to have the sort of strife I caused for Margaret aboard Heinlein Station."

I pulled Randi to me and we cuddled together for a moment. "Would you have to ask James for permission to let me make love to you Frances?" Randi asked in a soft voice. Only the presence of a stiff penis that must have been in a well hidden sheath until a moment ago gave lie to the idea that I was holding a sister concubine.

"I don't know..." I temporized. I had no idea what James would say about me having sex with someone who wasn't his concubine.

"Well, do you think he'd get mad if I asked him?"

"It couldn't hurt to ask, I know he nearly shared me with Margaret today."

"Yeah, but even if I look and think like a girl now I'm enough of a guy to know that is different."

"Why? We're with Lenny any time we feel like it. Sometimes we all line up like a bunch of bitches in heat and beg to be fucked by one or the other of them..."

"The Confederacy has made things confusing," Randi mused. "Margaret made me into a boy/girl to quell my tendency to want to control her, especially with violence. Being the smallest and weakest member of the family did almost more to cure that than the videos of concubines being spaced."

"I doubt James would space you," I said in defense of my master.

"Oh there's no doubt about that. But it wouldn't make me any less dead to end up like Corporal Winter."

"Do you really think you'd be that bad?"

Randi shrugged and said, "I wouldn't have to kill someone for James to decide that I was too much of a problem to have around. I know he wants to keep me alive as a sperm bank of sorts but would he put me in a wheel chair or something in order to do that? I know me, I think I'm a better person now than I ever was before."

"Do you still want to have sex with me?" I asked, a bit uncomfortable with where Randi's thoughts had taken him.

"Yeah, will you go with me now to ask James?" he tugged my hand and started back toward the residential section of the station.

"Aren't you going to get dressed?" I asked as Randi pulled me along.

"Why? I'm a concubine. I hear that other colonies have a rule that concubines have to be naked unless their jobs require clothes. With replicators everywhere there just aren't that many jobs to do," Randi said, not slowing in the least.

Before I'd had time to think or even wonder at Randi's enthusiasm, we'd proceeded back through the airlock and were in the main living area of the house I shared with James and my brother and sister concubines. I saw Brandy there and asked where James had gone. She told me to check the control room, which is where Randi dragged me next.

Sure enough James and Sgt Staunton were in the control area going over what the sensors that Sgt Staunton had seeded throughout the system told us about any activities within a couple of light hours. They were discussing how to get more distance and more resolution from the sensors without having them create resonances that the Sa'arm could detect. The argument seemed to be over what sorts of sensors the Sa'arm used and how they interpreted the data from their sensors. The AI seemed to think that the Sa'arm couldn't quite grasp the idea of deliberately using radiant energy in some of the ways humans had thought up. James was asking it questions about how the Confederacy races used radar and other methods in their navigation of the universe.

One of the questions James was asking was if the Sa'arm had some sort of sense that worked as radar without them using radio waves the way humans, and apparently, some other races in the Confederacy did.

Both of them seemed a little relieved to have us interrupt them. Randi bounced up to James and said without hesitation, "I'd like to make love to Frances."

James looked at me to see what I thought of that. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "You're my master. I won't do anything that you don't approve."

"This wasn't your idea then?" he asked, looking at me.

"No it's my idea," Randi proclaimed. "I could ask the women who are unassigned but they have almost less choice than Helga or Tori in some ways. You can tell me to leave all your women alone and I have to. Or you can give them the choice of who they have sex with."

"So far," James said, "they've confined their affections to people whom I've sponsored. But I expect that, now we're on station, that will change. The first reason for that is that it probably won't be more than a year until Brandy is ready to be a sponsor. Then I have absolutely no say over who shares her bed. She could walk to every house in the station and ask for attention from all the adult males available and that would be her business.

"I suppose if you can convince Frances to have sex with you I have no problem with it."

Randi hugged James and said in a much less certain voice, "I'd like to ask you for one more favor. Lenny says you're really very careful and gentle with him. I ... I ... I'd l ... li ... like to see what it's like to be fucked."

James looked like he'd been hit with a club. He looked over at Sgt Staunton and asked, "Has Randi discussed this with you?"

"Not this, but I've offered to push his looks back toward masculinity. He has refused that, saying that he believes that would endanger his life," Sgt Staunton said.

"What about him having sex with Frances?" James asked as he pushed Randi toward Sgt Staunton.

She caught Randi about the waist and said, "That's something we haven't discussed."

"Don't be too hard on Randi," I heard myself say.

"Why not?" James asked, looking at me sharply.

"Because expressing a desire shouldn't make him liable for punishment. If he had acted on that desire without consulting both you, and his mistress, then he would be liable for punishment," I said as I reasoned out what I thought was the right way to handle this almost at the same time I was speaking to James.

James laughed and said, "And you say you don't have what it takes to be the civil service officer? That was some of the better reasoning I've ever heard." I blushed and looked at my feet. I really didn't feel that I was anyone who should be listened to. I'd just hoped that I'd keep Randi from being punished for expressing a desire. Especially since I was fairly certain that he would be left as he was, half way between being a man and a woman.

"I won't punish Randi for wanting to have sex with you. In fact, why don't you suck on Randi's penis to show that you're willing to touch him that way."

"I don't mind girls," I said, a little insulted.

"But Randi's not really a girl," James gently reminded me.

I looked closely at Randi, a pair of miniscule but definite breasts adorned his chest, a clandestine cleft nestled in his barren crotch and not a hint of a penis was showing. I looked at Sgt Staunton for permission before I went to my knees before her concubine. She smiled indulgently at us before saying, "James I hate to point it out but we need to vacate this room so that the watch can have it."

James nodded before saying, "I'd hate to have to assign a paddling to myself."

I looked at the displayed clock and said, "I guess I could start my watch a little early if you're done in here."


James and Sgt Staunton had left shortly after that. James told me to consider writing some more of my story down as he thought it would help resolve some of my inner conflicts.

I sat for a while trying to get back to the memories I'd rather forget. Since that didn't work I decided to pursue something else for a moment. "AI, what are the objections you have against making Randi a fully functional female?"

"There are two, in the main," the machine told me, "First, it would be considered damaging to his psyche. And second, while the genetic issue is lessened by therapies available with nanites, the fact is that there are only five adult males including Randi and male two youths aboard Heinlein Station, therefore his genetic material is more valuable as a male than as a female."

I pondered that and asked, "Have you evaluated Randi's mental state since he was reshaped so radically by Sergeant Staunton?"

"Does that have any bearing on the issue?" the AI asked.

"Randi's personal identity as a human male has already been badly compromised. I don't know whether it would help or hurt at this point to give her a vagina at least."

"You call Randi her, yet Randi is male. Can you explain why?" the AI asked.

"Randi acts more female than male. I think that is because she is identifying with her body shape and size," I answered.

"Perhaps you should work a little on telling more of your story while I consider what you've told me," the AI suggested.

I growled a little at the machine but decided that I could at least outline some more.


Shopping with Mommy was, as I said before, pure and unadulterated misery. I was growing and that was not my fault. Eating too much and getting fat was partly my fault, though sitting for hours at a time at school was already taking its toll too. Still Mommy carped and found fault with me over my body size and my choices of clothing when she allowed me any choice. New underwear and bras were not among the items I got a choice in. Plain white was the rule of the night and they had as much coverage as was commercially available in my size. Only the fact that I hadn't had any bras in my wardrobe kept me from being strapped by Daddy when I finally got home with Mommy that night.

I was nervous the next day at school. I expected to receive a note telling me not to head over to Ms. Tannenbaum's classroom at any time. That state of mind continued until I discovered that I was headed there after snatching a few bites to eat during my lunch period. With a hammering heart and no little trepidation, I peeked around the doorjamb of Ms. Tannenbaum's classroom. I don't know even now whether I hoped she would be there or that I'd find her desk empty and after a wait until I'd be late if I didn't hurry I'd head back for my regular class.

"Ah Ms. Smith," Ms. Tannenbaum said as she noticed me peeking around the corner, "I'm glad to see you. Come in and visit with me for a minute. Did you bring the skirt you want to alter?"

I crept slowly into the room. Ms. Tannenbaum's friendly demeanor seemed off to me. But maybe that was because I knew that somewhere on her person she had a badge and a pistol loaded with blanks at least. In the legends of the neighborhood where I lived, there were no police who you could trust. When I'd seated myself nervously at a desk close enough that I thought I wouldn't be berated for making the woman shout at me, I pulled the skirt from my back pack and placed it on the surface in front of me.

I sat quietly and waited for the policewoman to make her next move. I had decided overnight that, no matter what, I wouldn't make a move toward her. I wouldn't open myself up to being hurt by her. After all, didn't the police eat babies? Maybe the stories around my neighborhood weren't that lurid but bad cops were not the stuff of urban legend to me. I was aware of at least a few who turned a blind eye to drug dealers or pimps for a consideration. I watched five minutes crawl by on the wall clock before Ms. Tannenbaum spoke again. "I see your parents care enough for you that you have some clothes that fit today. Are they new to you?"

I glared at Ms. Tannenbaum. How dare she make fun of the fact that all of my clothes except my underwear had come from a thrift store? She blushed and said, "Oh dear! I'm sorry Ms. Smith. Your mother did quite well in choosing clothes for you." That wasn't going to help. I continued to glare at her. She let another minute crawl by before she spoke again. Then she asked, "Since you did get some new clothes, do you still want to learn to sew and modify your clothes?"

I really wanted to shake my head and deny that. But somewhere deep inside I knew that sewing was a skill that would be useful in my future. I nodded while attempting to continue to hold the glare I was giving Ms. Tannenbaum. She ignored my ire and stood up. She went to a table where there were scissors and other tools laid out. There was also sewing machine that was set up in close proximity to the table. She handed me a strange tool from the table and said, "Why don't you start to take that apart?"

"How?"

"You've never used a seam ripper?" she asked.

I shook my head in a negative motion. Then I elaborated, "I've used scissors to cut paper and felt and maybe a little scrap material for art projects but I've never done anything with clothing."

Ms. Tannenbaum nodded at that, she took the small cylinder she'd handed me, and said, "Then this is your first lesson in caring for and modifying clothing." She pulled the cylinder apart to reveal a sharply pointed bit of metal. Then she proceeded to show me how it could be used to cut and pull the stitching that held my skirt together. I sat quietly and worked on taking the skirt apart. Ms. Tannenbaum stopped me in a couple of places to explain the way it was made and to give me advice on how to take it apart. I was somewhat surprised to find myself grinning at her when she told me I was doing well. When the last stitch was pulled and I had all the pieces of the skirt laid out on the table, Ms. Tannenbaum said, "Frances, you don't mind if I call you Frances do you? Don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't do something. That what you may want will require work is without a doubt true. But for most anything you may want to do, work is the magic that will make it happen." That made me smile widely. Ms. Tannenbaum might be a policewoman, but her praise still made me feel like something warm and fuzzy had nestled itself down in the bottom of my belly.

"Your skirt here," Ms. Tannenbaum said, after she'd smiled back at me, "is made of denim. That is good because if you have nothing else you can always take a pair of jeans and take them apart to help you have material to expand it."

I nodded to that. I had known that my skirt and pants were made of the same material. The idea of taking a too small pair of pants apart to expand my skirt was something that I felt stupid for not thinking of before Ms. Tannenbaum mentioned it. She must have seen me looking a little glum because she said, "Frances, never hold what you don't know against yourself. As long as you make the effort to remedy your ignorance, that ignorance is not going to be a terrible burden."

Then she spent the rest of the period showing me two ways in which my skirt could be expanded. As we folded the pieces and the pattern she'd drawn using my skirt Ms. Tannenbaum said, "If you keep showing up every day, I'll make sure that you get credit for this class so that you don't have to take it next year."

"I'm under orders to come here anyway," I said, a little sullenly. My good mood was going away fast.

"If I told principal Vance, and principal McAvoy that I thought you were able to come for one visit a week, they would accept that just as easily as having you take a daily class with me. Be sure you keep up on your assignments for this period and they won't question the fact that I'm tutoring you in home-EC while helping you sort out your questions about sex."

"You'd cheat for me?" popped out of my mouth before I had a chance to bite my tongue.

"No," Ms. Tannenbaum said, "your class this period would normally be math right?" I nodded unhappily. "Then on Monday you need to be sure to bring your math assignments for the week. You'll do them as quickly as possible, then I'll get on with your next lesson in clothing. Eventually I'll cover cooking and household management."

"I hate math," I said.

"I do too, but of all the subjects that you'll learn in school, math is the most important," Ms. Tannenbaum said with a wink.

I didn't know whether or not to believe her and evidently that showed on my face 'cause Ms. Tannenbaum said, "Do you really want to live in the ghetto all of your life?" I shook my head. "Then, one way or another, school is the way out. Unless you become a drug mule."

"If the wrong boy sees me as even slightly desirable I'll end up as a prostitute," I said sadly.

"If you're worried about that, why do you want that skirt?" Ms. Tannenbaum asked.

"'Cause even if I'm in danger that way, I do want to know if boys will see me that way..."

"You'd better run along Frances," Ms. Tannenbaum told me, after looking at me in a way that made me think that she might worry about my safety, "or you'll be late to your next class."

I realized as I walked back toward my next class that I'd somehow forgotten that Ms. Tannenbaum was a policewoman. That made me almost as angry as realizing that I would have to be careful about how much I improved my looks. After all I hadn't been lying. In my neighborhood girls got turned out by pimps with frightening regularity. It occurred to me that I really didn't want to lose too much weight 'cause that would make the changes in my body more evident. One thing I'd not seen (at least in my neighborhood) was a fat whore. So I'd wear my weight, at least in part, as armor.

I was glad to get out of school for the weekend. The other students managed to find out that I was seeing Ms. Tannenbaum (not that I expected that to stay secret what with being gone for a whole period) and made that the subject of their harassment for the day. I could only hope that pretty soon the fact of my absence for a period would fade into the background.

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